NINTENDO DS REVIEW: PAC PIX

If you were at E3 last year you'll recall (unless you blocked it out of your mind) the long line and subsequent long wait to see the new Nintendo game system the DS. It was there that I was first introduced to the unique drawing game, Pac-Pix. It's also at E3 where I first introduced to the fifteen-dollar burger and fries lunch. It was a toss up for three days between starving and going broke. Needless to say I came home with no money. Belch!

Pac-Pix is an excellent concept but it doesn't always work the way it's intended. Despite some technical glitches which makes reaching for the high score a lesson in frustration, Pac-Pix is still a lot of fun.

Using the stylus you draw icons on the screen which are brought to life with the purpose of playing a game. Although I was still unable to find some way to create a Sea Monkey that would rob a bank for me.

It doesn't matter if you can't draw, all you have to do is draw a circle and some lines. There's a great sketchbook mode where you can get all the practice that you need to feel confident with your doodles.

Pac-Man inspires the gameplay and there couldn't be an easier character to draw than that mouthy, rotund, ghost muncher himself. The object of the game is to clear the screen of ghosts by sending Pac-Man in their direction. The game system recognizes your drawing pattern and brings the icon to life. You draw the mouth first, in the direction of the ghosts. Complete the circular body and if it's drawn correctly Pac-Man will come to life and chew up all the ghosts in the direction that his mouth is facing. By drawing horizontal and vertical lines in his path you can bounce Pac-Man back and forth in different directions.

In later stages you will be able to draw arrows which will shoot off and release more ghosts. You will also be able to draw bombs with fuses that can be strategically placed in areas where you suspect the ghosts will move to.

The one big downside to Pac-Pix is that not all drawings are recognized. Oftentimes you'll have what you consider to be a perfect rendering only to watch as it lies there flat and motionless. This can surely cost you the high score as you're racing against time. Some of the problem can be attributed to existing, surrounding graphics which leave you with only a small space where it can be difficult to draw Pac-Man. Other times it just fails to recognize the graphics for no apparent reason. As much as I've practiced in the sketchbook mode I still have troubles and I've certainly done my share of drawing over my lifetime so of course I have to blame the game. It's easier on my ego that way.

As a kind of mini-game you can sketch various unrelated icons in the sketchpad to be brought to life. Only those already chosen by the developers can be brought to life so don't expect to draw a #&*~ and expect to see it %$#! It's a lot of fun when you do draw something that is recognized. Although you can't use it in the main mode it's still a thrill. If this were developed to include a few hundred icons I could just play this mode for a few days. Great idea.

If you don't like the graphics in this game it's your own fault. Learn to draw. You also control the gameplay by virtue of your drawing skills and the directions that you point them in. You'll hear the familiar arcade music of Pac-Man as he's brought to life. Overall the presentation is bright, cheery and fanciful. It shows the potential of the DS by exploiting its uniqueness, something that these next-gen console and future next-gen consoles will not be able to touch. Literally.

Preview by Devin D.

With a hunger that rivals the great white Jaws and the sex appeal of a hockey puck, he was busting ghosts before ghostbusting became chic and ruled the arcade with his addictive melodies and incredible maze solving abilities. His name alone will send anybody into a dizzying spiral of nostalgia. He is Pac-Man, and he is coming to the Nintendo DS.

"Pac-Pix", Pac-Man's latest rendition, retains the best part of its arcade parent; diligently eating ghosts. However, they add a new twist, so that the way you eat the ghosts is very, very different. This time around, you control Pac-Man using a stylus, and before you can get him to move, you have to draw him on the screen. That's great for the stylus efficient out there, but a stylus can be difficult to use. That's also great if you're an artist, I guess for the artistically challenged a circle with a mouth isn't hard to do. Once you've drawn your representation of Pac-Man, assuming you haven't given him three eyes and Hulk Hogan arms, he goes on his merry way chasing his ghostly meals.

Drawing Pac-Man can give you some advantages. Ghosts will come in all different sizes, and a smaller Pac-Man won't be able to fit a big ghost in his mouth. The bigger you draw Pac-Man, and his ghost chompers, the more ghosts you can fit in his mouth at one time.

Pac-Man isn't too bright though. He heads in only one direction. In order to get Pacs to change directions and go after ghosts, you have to draw a wall for him to bounce off in the right direction. If you don't want him to move, you box him in.

The top screen isn't left for just pretty pictures. No, there will be tunnels where extra lives and points can be racked up. To get to this area, you must first devour a key, which will unlock the doors leading to the top screen, then bounce Pac-Man in the right direction. In later levels, the top screen will come heavily into play as those sneaky ghosts make their way up there. "Pac-Pix" displays some new features to the Pac-Man world, such as missiles. Yes, missiles, To get ghosts in those hard to reach places, you can draw a missile and launch it at the ghosts.

Missiles aren't the only weapons Pac-Man has in his arsenal. Some stages will have ghosts surrounded by barriers, and the only way to get through is to blow them up. This means you draw a bomb to free the ghosts so you can get them. The bigger the bomb, the bigger the boom boom.

Boss fighting has also been introduced in this rendition. So far from what can be seen, the bosses will come in different shapes and sizes. Part of the strategy is to draw Pac-Man accordingly, so he can eat the boss in one feel swoop, or chomp rather.

"Pac-Pix" is shaping up to be an addictive little game. It would be nice to see a multiplayer feature utilizing the DS's wireless capabilities, or the original 1980 Pac-Man theme would be super cool if it were included as well. The "stylus only" control seems pretty fun and could provide for some hilarious times, but for those of us who may be stylus incompetent, we may just end up sticking it in the electrical socket. Constant drawing can become tedious and the fun may die, but I can see hardcore Pac-Man fans picking up this title. Look for Pac-Man to add the DS to his crown of jewels in April 2005.

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System: DS
Dev: Namcom
Pub: Namco
Release: April 2005
Players: 1
Review By Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
3.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
2.5